During Covid, ink was just about impossible to find. I literally bought a printer just to get ink. Sadly, it was about the same price as the ink. Companies even realized it was time to innovate or get left behind. The two most notable companies I’ve seen do this (outside of laser printers) are Canon, Epson and HP. One such model, the HP Smart Tank 7301, boasts including enough ink to last for two years. Sounds too good to be true – I put it to the test (and do a little research) to find out more.
Setting up this printer was a colossal pain for me. My test begins in an office, and for some crazy reason, Windows 10 did not want to cooperate with getting the drivers for the HP Smart Tank 7301. I did not set this up on my home network, and I believe that is why it was more challenging. Considering I build my own PC’s and am familiar with the basics of networking, I am fairly tech savvy. I nearly threw in the towel on this one, though I never would do such a terrible thing. My conscience simply won’t let me. I won’t sleep until I figure things out.
It didn’t take me days, but it did take about 45 minutes for me to go over the step-by-step instructions over and over again until it finally just randomly worked. Considering most printers set up in 15 minutes or less, this was a major frustration for this user. I haven’t read of other users going through this, so perhaps it was just an off day.
Once I got it up and running, including filling the ink tanks with included ink bottles, everything was full speed ahead. Like most modern printers, the HP Smart Tank 7301 can print, scan and copy. Printing can be done from a PC on the network, Mac, or a cell-phone (Apple Air Print/Mopria Print Service).
Print quality is stellar with the Smart Tank. Black and white text is perfectly legible and sharp and puts out roughly 15 pages per minute. This is where laser printers typically crush inkjet printers, and this remains true. Just printing in black and white can yield up to 4000 pages of high-quality documents. I can always purchase HP32XL replacement ink and yield up to 6000 pages. This is highly unusual for a regular printer. My favorite Canon laser printer only yields ~3100 pages before needing toner. The high yield toner for same printer does yield up to 10k pages, however.
Color printing is equally stunning. I’m impressed with the sharpness, and though I rarely print in color, it is nice to know the option is there for high quality printing. I have no concerns with turning in work docs etc. with this printer to my boss etc. Pages look gorgeous and professionally done. I pair this printer with resume style white paper to ensure the best quality documents.
The HP Smart Tank 7301 isn’t perfect though. Those looking for a phenomenal scanner are sure to be disappointed. It isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just okay. This is where the aforementioned Canon printer separates itself as a better business class printer. It is difficult to see finer details in the scanning while comparing to an original document. I notice this most with graphically intensive docs as opposed to text-based docs.
The scanner has an automatic document feeder. This is always a nice feature, however, it doesn’t allow for double sided documents. This means I have to flip pages over myself and scan again to get both sides. Annoying? Yes.
The HP Smart Tank 7301 also supports photo paper for glossy prints with sizes up to standard paper length and width (8.5×11). Honestly, I don’t tend to print photos and HP did not provide this type of paper for my test, therefore I can’t give a lot of advice or information here. I can however state that glossy paper almost always gives a much better photo on printers than standard.
I can finally say there is a worthy inkjet out there. I still tend to lean towards a great laser printer if I can, but color laser printers get very pricey. The HP Smart Tank 7301 strikes a great balance of speed, quality, and high yield ink, making it a strong competitor for home or small-office use. If scanning is your primary reason for a purchase, consider a few other options before snagging this one though. The lack of a double-sided scan option and some quality issues should make you think twice. Otherwise, happy printing without replacing ink – possibly for two years.